Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Jesus turns water into wine

John 2:1-11
The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus' mother told him, "They have no more wine." "Dear woman, that's not our problem," Jesus replied. "My time has not yet come." But his mother told the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told the servants, "Fill the jars with water." When the jars had been filled, he said, "Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies." So the servants followed his instructions. When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. "A host always serves the best wine first," he said. "Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!" This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

A wedding in the time of Christ was no small event. For several days there would be gift giving, speechmaking, food-eating and-- you guessed it!-- wine drinking. Food and wine were taken very seriously. The host honored the guests by keeping their plates full and their cups overflowing. It was considered an insult to the guests if the host ran out of food or wine.

"Without wine," said the rabbis, "there is no joy." Wine was crucial, not for drunkenness, which was considered a disgrace, but for what it demonstrated. The presence of wine stated that this was a special day and that all guests were special guests.

The absence of wine, then, was a social embarrassment.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is one of the first to notice that the wine has run out. She goes to her Son and points out the problem: "They have no more wine."

Jesus' response? "Dear woman, that is not our problem....My time has not yet come."

Interesting statement. "My time." Jesus is aware of the plan. He has a place and a time for His first miracle. And this isn't it.

Jesus knows the plan. At first, it appears He is going to stay with it. But as He hears His mother and looks into the faces of the wedding party, He reconsiders. The significance of the plan is slowly eclipsed by His concern for the people. Timing is important, but people are more so.

Why did Jesus do it? What motivated His first miracle?

His friends were embarrassed. What bothered them bothered Him.

So go ahead. Tell God what hurts. Talk to Him. He won't turn you away. He won't think it's silly. "For our high priest is able to understand our weaknesses. When He lived on earth, He was tempted in every way that we are, but He did not sin. Let us, then, feel very sure that we can come before God's throne where there is grace." Hebrews 4:15,16

Friday, December 26, 2008

Jesus calls Peter, James, and John

Luke 5:4-11
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish." "Master," Simon replied, "we worked hard all last night and didn't catch a thing. But if you say so, I'll let the nets down again." And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking. When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, "Oh, Lord, please leave me-I'm too much of a sinner to be around you." For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed. Jesus replied to Simon, "Don't be afraid! From now on you'll be fishing for people!" And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.

Push out into the deep, Peter. Let's fish. I groaned. I looked at John. We were thinking the same thing. As long as He wanted to use the boat for a platform to speak, that was fine. But to use it for a fishing boat--that was our territory.
With every pull of the paddle, I grumbled. "No way. No way. Impossible. I may not know much, but I know fishing. And all we're going to come back with are some wet nets."
Finally we cast anchor. I picked up the heavy netting, held it waist-high, and started to throw it. That's when I caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye.
"Boy, is He in for a disappointment," I thought as I threw the net. I wrapped the rope once around my hand and sat back for the long wait.
But there was no wait. The slack rope yanked taut and tried to pull me overboard. I set my feet against the side of the boat and yelled for help.
We got the net in just before it began to tear. I'd never seen such a catch. We began to take in water. John screamed for the other boat to help us.
That's when I realized who He was. And that's when I realized who I was: I was the one who told God what He couldn't do!
"Go away from me, Lord; I'm a sinful man." There wasn't anything else I could say.
I don't know what He saw in me, but He didn't leave. Maybe He thought if I would let Him tell me how to fish, I would let Him tell me how to live.
It was a scene I would see many times over the next couple of years. The characters would change, but the theme wouldn't. When we would say, "No way," He would say, "My way." Then the ones who doubted would scramble to salvage the blessing. And the one who gave it would savor the surprise.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Jesus Begins His Ministry

Matthew 4:12-16 When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he left Judea and returned to Galilee. He went first to Nazareth, then left there and moved to Capernaum, beside the Sea of Galilee, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This fulfilled what God said through the prophet Isaiah: "In the land of Zebulun and of Naphtali, beside the sea, beyond the Jordan River, in Galilee where so many Gentiles live, the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined."

He looked around the carpentry shop. He stood for a moment in the refuge of the little room that housed so many sweet memories. He had come to say good-bye.

He had heard something that made Him know it was time to go. So He came one last time to smell the sawdust and lumber. Life was peaceful here.

I wonder if He hesitated.

You can almost see the tools of the trade in His words as He spoke. You can see the trueness of a plumb line as He called for moral standards. You can imagine Him with a pencil and a ledger as He urges honesty. It was here that His human hands shaped the wood His divine hands had created. And it was here that His body matured while His spirit waited for the right moment, the right day.

And now that day had arrived.

Our God is an awesome God!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Jesus' Baptism and the witness of John

Some Pharisees who had been sent asked John: "If you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet, why do you baptize people?"
John answered, "I baptize with water, but there is one here with you that you don't know about. He is the One who comes after me. I am not good enough to untie the strings of His sandals."
This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan River where John was baptizing people.

John 1:24-34
Then the Pharisees who had been sent asked him, "If you aren't the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?" John told them, "I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. Though his ministry follows mine, I'm not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal." This encounter took place in Bethany, an area east of the Jordan River, where John was baptizing. The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! He is the one I was talking about when I said, 'A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.' I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel." Then John testified, "I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. I didn't know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, 'The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God."

John the Baptist saw a dove and believed. James Whittaker saw a sea gull and believed. James Whittaker was a member of the hand picked crew that flew the B-17 Flying Fortress captained by Eddie Rickenbacker. Anybody who remembers October of 1942 remembers the day Rickenbacker and his crew were reported lost at sea.
Somewhere over the Pacific, out of radio range, the plane ran out of fuel and crashed into the ocean. The nine men spent the next months floating in three rafts. After only eight days their rations were eaten or destroyed by saltwater. It would take a miracle to survive.
One morning after their daily devotions, Rickenbacker leaned his head back against the raft and pulled his hat over his eyes. A bird landed on his head. He peered out from under his hat. Every eye was on him. He instinctively knew it was a sea gull.
Rickenbacker caught it, and the crew ate it. The bird's intestines were used for bait to catch fish...and the crew survived to tell the story.
You may have heard the Rickenbacker story before. The greatest event of that day was not the rescue of a crew but the rescue of a soul.
James Whittaker was an unbeliever. The plane crash didn't change his unbelief. The days facing death didn't cause him to reconsider his destiny. In fact, Mrs. Whittaker said her husband grew irritated with John Bartak, a crew member who continually read his Bible privately and aloud.
But his protests didn't stop Bartak from reading. Nor did Whittaker's resistance stop the Word from penetrating his soul. Unknown to Whittaker, the soil of his heart was being plowed. For it was one morning after a Bible reading that the sea gull landed on Captain Rickenbacker's head. And at that moment Jim became a believer.
Who would go to such extremes to save a soul? Amazing the lengths to which God will go to get our attention, huh?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Jesus' Birth

The Word became a human and lived among us. We saw His glory-- that belongs to the only Son of the Father-- and He was full of grace and truth. Because He was full of grace and truth, from Him we all received one gift after another. The law was given through Moses, but Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. But God the only Son is very close to the Father, and He has shown us what God is like.
John 1:14-18

It all happened in a moment, a most remarkable moment that was like none other. God became a man. While the creatures of earth walked unaware, Divinity arrived.

God was given eyebrows, elbows, two kidneys, and a spleen. He stretched against the walls and floated in the amniotic fluids of his mother.

God had come near. No silk. No ivory. No hype. To think of Jesus in such light is....well, it seems almost irreverent, doesn't it? It is much easier to keep the humanity out of the incarnation.

But don't do it. Let Him be as human as He intended to be. Let Him into the mire and muck of our world. For only if we let Him in can He pull us out!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Jesus' Birth Announced

During Elizabeth's sixth month of pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin. She was engaged to marry a man named Joseph from the family of David. Her name was Mary. The angel came to her and said, "Greetings! The Lord has blessed you and is with you."
But Mary was very startled by what the angel said and wondered what this greeting might mean.
The angel said to her, "Don't be afraid, Mary; God has shown you His grace. Listen! You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of King David, His ancestor. He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will never end."
Mary said to the angel, "How will this happen since I am a virgin?"
The angel said to Mary, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you. For this reason the baby will be holy and will be called the Son of God."
Gabriel was never one to question, but this time he had to wonder. God will become a baby? That's okay for humans, he thought to himself. But God? The heavens can't contain Him; how could a body?
But Gabriel had his orders. Take the message to Mary. Must be a special girl, he assumed as he traveled. But Gabriel was in for another shock. The mother-to-be of God was not regal. She was a Jewish peasant who'd barely outgrown her acne and had a crush on a guy named Joe. It was all Gabriel could do to keep from turning back. "This is a peculiar idea you have, God," he must have muttered to himself.
Are God's guardians given to such musings? Are we? Only heaven knows how long Gabriel fluttered unseen above Mary before he took a breath and broke the news. But he did. He told her the name. He told her the plan. He told her not to be afraid. And when he announced, "With God nothing is impossible!" he said it as much for himself as for her.
Remember from the message yesterday, "Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God all things are possible."
I continue to pray for God to use us to accomplish the impossible. What an opportunity and privilege we have. Don't miss it!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

It's all about Jesus

Good afternoon! I am not sure how many are following my journey in this blog or how many actually care but I find this a multi-purpose tool. It challenges me to study; it allows me to offer thoughts, teachings or maybe even inspirational words that will help people right here at Quarry Rock Church or clear across the world. It also serves as a good devotional time for me to read, reread and seek God in the meaning and value of what I have typed. Not that any of you are interested, but just in case, I will tell you. My favorite author is Max Lucado. I love his writing style, his clever illustrations, and the fact that he writes in short story form which is good for me as I am not a fast reader. But most importantly, Max writes about the heart of Jesus and after all, isn't that what it is all about? It's all about Jesus! I am going to start a little journey for a while talking about moments Jesus invested in us for our benefit. Max will help me with some of his clever words from time to time as I read through his many wonderful books.

Simple moments. Quiet moments. Moments missed by many, but created by God, forever punctuating the timeline of history. You can't open the gospels without reading about them. They are the greatest moments:
Mary watches her baby boy in a feed trough and ponders, "How can this really be God?"
The apostles stare at a lunch bucket of loaves and fish that never goes empty.
A leper sees new fingers appear where only nubs had been and runs back to thank his God.
God does what He would be doing only in your wildest dreams--wearing diapers, riding donkeys, washing feet, dozing in the midst of storms, and dying for your sins.

These are the greatest moments, when God put on humanity, not only to save us from our sins but to experience life as we do, with all its laughter and tears.......

What a God! What a Savior!